Investigators: Murder Suspect Met Victims Online

Updated: 03/08/2013 6:04 PM KSTP.com By: Katherine Johnson

Joy Friedman works at the St. Paul-based organization Breaking Free, a nonprofit helping girls and women escape from situations of sexual exploitation.  

"This is somebody's daughter," she said of murdered teen Brittany Clardy. "This is somebody's kid."

Police say Alberto Palmer, now facing murder charges, found Brittany Clardy through an ad on backpage.com, and she's not alone.  Friedman says out of the approximately 500 women Breaking Free helps in the metro each year, more than 70 percent of them have placed ads on backpage.com.

"That avenue is such an easy avenue to get into," she said. "You do not have to go to a strip club and stand on stage, it is so secretive.  It is so underground that no one knows and you think you can keep this hidden."

Ads for sex solicitation and escorts fill the website, despite efforts by both the Minneapolis and St. Paul city councils to shut down the ad space. Minneapolis police have added officers to a special crime task force to target the problem but Friedman says it will take more than pressure from police to protect other girls from what happened to Clardy.

"Someone is buying her and violating her because they can through means like Backpage," said Friedman.  "We as a society have to shut this stuff down."

We reached out to backpage.com for comment but have yet to hear back.  Breaking Free will soon hold their annual event "Demand Change" to encourage people to work to bring the demand for sex solicitation to an end. If you would like more information Breaking Free, click here.